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Posts tagged ‘Mediterranean’

Musing on the Seashore

I found myself on Monday morning sitting by the lapping shore of the Mediterranean, which was softly sweeping golden currents of calm, watery loveliness onto the freshly wet sand. The sun was warm despite the winter, and across the vertical column of light reflected over the water, small sardine fishing boats glided slowly into harbour to unload their night’s catch. I was lucky. A quick weekend at my family home in Marbella coincided with a few bursts of sunshine, while back in London, Monday’s regular commuter stream was being battered by arctic winds and snow showers in some 20 degrees less than I enjoyed back on that seashore.

As the water licked the beach’s edge, giving temporary glimmer to all the stones and shells it passed over, those who like me value the early light of daybreak took a similar stroll along the sand, an excitable dog invariably at their side (at least when it was not jumping in the waters, who teased with their swift withdrawal from shore line back towards the mass of sea). One such passer-by approached me, laughing apologetically for her dog who, nuzzling my side with his freshly wet face, seemed to sense that I was, at that moment, all at one with the sea which so delighted him.

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I not only took time to contemplate my luck at enjoying this transformative moment of winter sunshine; I also reflected upon the very accessible humanity which you can find amongst those who live in the sun, and in alignment with nature. In Spain especially, where the golden warmth of sun graces the country on most days of the year, there is an intrinsic approachability and outwards civility to everyone you meet. Strangers greet you like members of their family. Passers-by exchange not merely a glance but a comment on the beauty of the day. My time living in Mallorca open my soul to the kind of embrace of humanity I found in the Spanish. Now back in London, when I’m on the tube, and in the angry streets of the city, I feel the need to hide away that recharged humanity, in a place where smiles are too often met by scowls and courtesy left for others to administer.

Circumstances are so often the source of our mood and our civility. But as that moment in the sun reminded me, we should all take time out to smile, give and share with others, even when the demands of the daily grind render this difficult.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Marseille to Marbella, Part I: Downtown City

Marseille is one of those cities that’s got a bit of a reputation. Like Naples and Palermo, (and even Barcelona before its Olympics regeneration), Marseille is characterised by an idyllic location which has been both its enemy and its friend. For with popularity has also come rapid growth, and the result is an uncontrolled urban sprawl where street crime has taken the place of riviera recreation, and the high temperatures have combined with a generalised lethargy to improve what are often grave social divides and ever evident crime and economic issues. Yet for all that, Marseille is a city with an undeniable arresting quality; which is so historically wealthy and with so vibrant and diverse a population that you cannot help but be mesmerised.

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Such is Marseille, France’s second city, and in many respects like Paris by the sea, except that in Marseille the social divide is perhaps even more visible. Here, Haussmann mansions have been given a graffiti facelift, and where the Seine would cut through Paris with all its luxuriant wateriness, in Marseille the sea, and all its accompanying ship building industrial heritage and fishing paraphernalia, predominates all.

This first look at our summer trip from Marseille down to Marbella takes the Daily Norm back a few weeks, to the sunny days of August when temperatures were at an all time high. Our arrival, on the Eurostar train from London into Marseille’s Gare St Charles, was one greeted by temperatures close to the 40s. Yet this was no blue-shuttered port or seaside retreat in which to enjoy the summer weather at ease. Marseille hit us with the full impact of its teeming urban sprawl which literally shimmered in the heat as the fumes of traffic and food and generalised humanity combined with fresh sea breezes and an awful lot of sunshine.

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From streets crammed with shops and markets, and bustling with faces from across the world, to the city’s true heart, the Vieux Port, where people milled to watch boats stride in and out of the harbour, it wasn’t hard to get to know Marseille: a city which wears its heart on its sleeve and is emotionally, viscerally real.

Marseille may be the capital of the French Riviera but St Tropez it is not. Rather, this thriving metropolis combines elements from across France and its ancient empire: it is a true world city with an evidently international demographic. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in spirit. And as you can see from this first raft of photos, it is a city of a not insignificant aesthetic appeal.

Bienvenue à Marseille!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Wholemeal lemon and rosemary cake

I was sitting just next to my little blooming lemon tree, breathing in the subtle perfume of its abundant blossom one morning before work when I saw the recipe for a lemon polenta loaf cake go up onto the blog of my phenomenally talented (and heavily pregnant!) blogger friend Lady Aga. It was undoubtedly the heady combination of lemon blossom and her tantalising looking photos which immediately inspired in me the certain knowledge that I was going to make this cake at the first opportunity. And last weekend, lemon, rosemary and olive oil at the ready, I did! Sadly for Lady Aga’s wonderful recipe, and perhaps also for my resulting cake, I was a little too keen on the uptake. Midway through, I realised I lacked polenta and a loaf shaped tin. It quickly became clear that I might have to disembark from the Lady Aga road slightly.

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So recipe a little altered, and a round cake tin employed for the purpose, I opted instead for  wholemeal not-so-loafish cake using the integral flour which we have in stock in an attempt to be healthy. I also blended a load of his trusty breakfast porridge oats as Lady Aga suggests, and with the rosemary growing fresh on our terrace, it worked a treat. I won’t recite the recipe here seeing as Lady Aga has it penned so well, but whether you decide to go with my wholemeal approach or the undoubtedly better polenta recipe, this cake is surely exquisite.

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Fresh out of the oven, its sugary lemon juice drizzle still a little sticky, we eagerly devoured a slice or two of this delicious cake in the creamy afternoon (terrace photos happily intermingled with model-shots of cake above). Accompanied by a steaming earl grey, the lemon and rosemary flavour couldn’t have made for a better British-Mallorquín afternoon tea, and as for the wholemeal flour, while I worry that it may have made the cake slightly drier than the polenta version, the result is a cake which made every appearance of a morally highbrow, persuasively healthy teatime treat. Thank you Lady Aga!

My Palma: 6 months, 157 buildings and 205 boats

I interrupt my weekly digital exhibition of gouaches in my Ocho Balcones collection to present, with a considerable degree of excitement, my newest oil painting: The Bay of Palma. Started back in April when I found a typical little postcard of this typical view of the sprawling bay of Palma de Mallorca, I couldn’t resist the temptation to paint this city I have so come to love on the largest scale possible. So starting work on an immense 152 x 101 cm canvas, I set about painting what must be one of the most complicated painting projects of my art career.

Just the cathedral alone took endless hours of laboured work and adjustments of proportion, let alone the city which surrounds it and then those dreaded boats. Ah the boats… how I agonised over painting these seemingly innocuous white forms, correcting shadows and trying to paint masts with a shaking hand. But once 205 of them were done, I stood back in pride and admiration at what I had a achieved: a landscape which is both a typical view of this most admired of cities, but which was nonetheless technically difficult to capture, both because of its size and its detail. But I am delighted with the result.

Bay of Palma Water

I am therefore proud to share this painting exclusively on The Daily Norm along with a few shots of some of the many details which fill the work. I hope you like it!

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part IV: Cannes

Cannes. The very name inspires a thousand tales of glitzy summer nights spent alongside yachts overbrimming with champagne, of film festivals with the stars, and dining in the famous Carlton Hotel alongside the palm-fringed parasol-filled beach of the French Riviera. Having long soaked up the reputation of this celebrity hot-spot, we could not resist the temptation to pay a visit to the city, staying as we were mere kilometres away. And while our visit there involved several rather unenviable encounters with the feral French roads and the even worse drivers impersonating something akin to driving upon them, we were excited to arrive in this much reputed city, filled as it was with all of the thrills and frills of the high life.

Cannes sur la plage

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The sophisticated life which brand-Cannes sells was obvious as soon as we arrived. Ladurée macarons sat alongside Dior which in turn neighboured Chanel, which faced Lacoste. Walking onto the beach, the famous domed silhouette of the Carlton Hotel glimmered in the haze of summertime heat, and beyond a rather grotesque film festival cinema building, the charming old town stood quaintly alongside a luxury harbour glimmering in the sunshine.

In the old town restaurants, prices were commensurate with the reputation of the city, and in the shops one quickly got the impression that a lack of money was not easily tolerated in this playground of the rich and famous. So very French Riviera, so very Cannes.

Old town Cannes

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For us, it was a day of mixed emotions. We were charmed by the old town, with its pastel colours, soap-filled souvenir shops and a little church nestled upon a hill overlooking the luxury liners below. We were equally enamoured by the Carlton Hotel, or the outside at least, which we gazed upon with a knowing nostalgia as we remembered scenes of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant from our favourite Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief. 

But beyond these charms, the town was altogether too developed and too busy to be truly admired. True luxury comes from exclusivity, and the exclusivity of Cannes felt superficially imposed by its prices, rather than by the inaccessibility or unspoilt beauty of its location. Rather it was a location spoilt by development, by tourism, and by the ravages of money… the charms of Grace Kelly and the golden age of Hollywood seemed very lacking here. True, with money, Cannes might have its illusions still, but for those with less, being shut out on the outside is less fun. There simply isn’t enough beauty there to keep you enchanted for free.

The famous Carlton

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Sketchbook: Resting on La Rambla

La Rambla is easily one of my favourite streets in Palma de Mallorca. Long and abundantly leafy, this civilised avenue keeps cars to the side so that its central avenue can be the preserve of perambulating locals and a host of flower sellers whose daily offerings issue a dreamy perfume at all times of the year. The avenue is also appropriately the location of a good number of cafés and tapas bars, and there is nothing quite nicer on a warm day that sitting out in the dappled sunlight which reaches the elegant pavements through the trees and enjoying a coffee or wine.

It was on one such outing that I recently took out my sketchbook and, armed with my trusty staedtler pens, made this little sketch of a small square just off the floral avenue. Just a typical corner of this city I now call home, it contains all of the features that make Palma such an exquisite Mediterranean destination.

Resting on La Rambla (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Resting on La Rambla (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

A homage to the Olive Tree

If I were a poet, now would be the time to lapse into a suitably poetical homage to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful trees on the earth: the olive tree. And I should know, for living now on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, I find myself surrounded by them. And yet poetry has never been my strong point, hard as I might try, but happily I always have my camera, and a photographic homage is surely apt adulation for a tree which is, after all, so visibly magnificent.

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Whether they be young trees cultivated in long lines for the mass production of their oil, or the stunning old trees whose every twist and turn and ancient nook and cranny tells a thousand stories of its longevity on the earth, olive trees are a veritable feast for the eyes. Every tree is so different, and the older they get, the more whimsically sculptural their trunks become – like the creation of the maddest surrealist or the most imaginative fantastical painter. And amongst leaves of near-silver, plump fruit of purple and green, and sometimes even a polished lacquered black are the perfect product of so complex and beautiful a tree.

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So with photos taken across Mallorca, this is my homage to the olive tree.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Sketchbook: Olives and Grain

To call these little paintings “sketches” is perhaps something of a misnomer, not least for my sketchbook which is traditionally full of black and white line drawings. However, my move to Mallorca has undoubtedly coincided with a rush of colour into my life, and the drawings I am doing now are more colourful in their creation. They are also painted – these two little detailed sketches are painted in my new favourite medium for quick artwork: gouache.

Representing very much two staples of Mediterranean cuisine, these little paintings illustrate the grain which goes into Mallorca’s local bread, and the black olives which are so plentiful all over the island.

Black olives (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Black olives (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Grain (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Grain (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Arrival – Painting the moment when the Mallorca Move sunk in

In the time since we arrived in Mallorca a little over 2 months ago, I have been constantly creating. Such are the benefits of stepping into an intrinsically creative role as Artistic Director of an amazingly dynamic company. But the time for painting for my own personal collection has not been so profuse. Yet I knew that I was going to paint very soon after we arrived. It was in fact on the Tuesday following our arrival on a Saturday evening that a painting first appeared in sharp focus in my mind.

We had stepped out on a walk one afternoon in search of water. Living in a city next to the sea, an awareness of the ocean is continuous, and yet an immediate proximity with the water is not always so easy. Here in Palma, before you get to the sea, you need to traverse roads and parks, jogging lanes and a busy harbour. But on that afternoon, we walked our way through one section of the harbour, passing yacht clubs and huge boats being renovated for the summer, only stopping when we came to the water’s edge.

Arrival (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Arrival (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

There, sitting with my legs flopped over the harbour edge mere inches from the surface of the water, I gazed directly into the sinking sun before me as it plummeted behind the hillside silhouette and the outline of Bellver castle sitting atop the city. The sky was glowing more and more yellow, and as the light darkened, the water became more like silky liquid ink, and the reflections upon it were golden. It was in this moment that I allowed myself to dream, to wander from reality into a moment of a pure epiphany; a time in which it dawned on me for perhaps the first time how our lives had changed for the better, and how we had moved to a paradise of Mediterranean harbours, of white gleaming yachts, and sunshine.

And there it was. An image of that same view floated into my mind. It was always intended to be a simple image – just the water, the sun, the reflection, the sunset and the cluster of white yachts bobbling upon the water. Yet in that simplicity there is carried a weighty realisation – that we had made the big leap to a new life and a new beginning – It was the moment of our true arrival.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Rural idyll in Mountainous Mallorca

It is sometimes difficult to remember, when passing most of one’s time in the bustling city centre of Palma de Mallorca, that mere miles outside of the city lies some of the most stunning natural scenery in all of the Mediterranean. From wide planes peppered with ancient windmills and sprawling olive and citrus groves, to incredibly vast vertiginous mountain scenery, Mallorca is an island rich in stunning vistas and bucolic idylls, and when I got myself a set of wheels last week, I enjoyed my first samplings of the island at its very best.

The car took us deep within the vast Serra de Tramuntana, a stretch of mountains which forms the backbone of the island sprawling from South West to North East, and which was awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 2011. Reaching the village from Palma involves an easy motorway drive East to Alaró from where the road turns inwards into the heart of the mountains.

Sheep

While the meandering mountainside road can be a little nail-biting at times, the accompanying views and sensationally untouched countryside are amongst the most stunning I have ever seen. Beneath towering mountains, terraced planes filled with olive trees and red stony terrain play host to mountain-hardy sheep and goats who totter around with iconic bells hanging around their necks. The result is a soporific melody of soft bells jangling in the still mountain air, a soundtrack which mesmerises me into an other-worldly state of epiphany. 

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Meanwhile through the delicate olive branches, soft warming sun rays bounce and scatter light across a crumbling dry soil, and all around insects stir against their beds of rustic tree bark and rocky-bound plant life. The landscape is almost biblical in its magnificence, and of course it lends itself to photography like none other.

So let me leave you to enjoy the fruits of my first visit inland. I can assure you now that there will be many more new mountain adventures to come.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.